Now that this game has had a chance to breathe, let’s go back and talk about how incredibly special it was. Partly for selfish reasons (I really wanted to relive it) but also partly to break down the individual moments we may not have noticed at the time.
Marco Estrada has come close to throwing a no-hitter three times as a Blue Jay – two consecutive starts last July against the O’s and Rays, and this one. This season, he was also perfect for three innings against the Dodgers (and no-hit them for five). It might have surprised us the first time, but by now we all know what Marco’s capable of.
So when it got to the 5th and the Red Sox had yet to get a hit, and I had to go to work, I did something I haven’t done in ages.
I turned my phone off.
No matter what happened this game – if he was successful, if it got broken up the minute after I left – I wasn’t going to let it be spoiled. No Twitter notifications, nothing from MLB At Bat, no texts from well-meaning friends. Nada.
When I got home I raced to the TV and started up my PVR from where I’d left off – and, well, we all know what happened. I was so tense watching it even though I knew it had happened hours earlier. I don’t think I’ve ever wanted to ‘hurry’ through the half of the inning where the Blue Jays bat before. I just wanted Marco to get back out on the mound and keep doing his thing.
I also didn’t fast-forward anything (other than commercials) lest my impatience somehow affect the outcome of events from hours earlier. I don’t know why, but between this and my lucky Marcus Stroman shirt, there’s something about pitching that makes me incredibly superstitious.
I think this first inning is why I took so long to realize this was a no-hitter. A whole lot happened. First Jose Bautista hit a leadoff homer, which gave the Jays the lead and was very exciting. Then Estrada allowed the first three hitters to reach – two walks and then a forceout. Estrada himself made the smart play on that forceout, a bunt that he grabbed and fired to third to get the lead runner. But it was confusing because while obviously a forceout is not a hit, that’s still an awful lot of baserunners to sift through before realizing the lack of Red Sox hits.
Another leadoff walk seemed to indicate Estrada’s command wasn’t very sharp in this game. But I hope Boston fans enjoyed having a man aboard, because they wouldn’t get another one for six innings. (Mwahaha)
This is where all the real offensive excitement happened for the Blue Jays, with two more home runs off the bats of Darwin Barney and Edwin Encarnacion. Plus let’s not neglect that Josh Donaldson walk, the only reason the Jays scored more runs than they had hits in this game.
Estrada sent down three in a row, and seemed to be settling in. This is when I started frowning at my scoresheet, thinking ‘that can’t be right’ as I noticed for the first time that he had yet to allow a hit.
Both teams went down in order for the first time, but Estrada looked even more focused. He’s typically a fly ball pitcher, but all his usual fly balls were finding gloves.
After a leadoff walk to Darwin Barney (he would end up 1-for-1 with the homer and two walks in the game, an impressive feat on its own), Jose Bautista grounded into a double play. I was beginning to fret about having to leave for work when the game was getting exciting. “Just one more inning,” was my motto at this point. The fifth inning seems super-early to be thinking about a no-hitter, but I don’t think so. Once you clear the 5th you’re more than halfway through the game, and no-hitting a team for half a game is still nothing to sneeze at.
Estrada had two strikeouts in this inning. One on three pitches, the other on four. Mighty impressive for a guy who’d seemed unable to find the strike zone early on.
Let us all just send a silent ‘thank you’ for Russell Martin‘s home run. What seemed like extra insurance at the time wound up being the deciding factor in the game.
After thinking about this game and wondering at its outcome all day at work, I thought ‘Gee, wouldn’t it be a bummer if Boston had a hit the first inning after I left?’ Good thing they didn’t! Three more quick outs, and Estrada didn’t seem to be losing steam. In fact, he seemed even more precise as he began his third time through the Red Sox lineup. Apparently at this point Martin hadn’t realized he was catching a no-hitter, which is kind of hilarious but also speaks to how good Estrada’s been over the last two years – this seemed like nothing out of the ordinary.
Right around here is when I started to worry that rain, not a hit, would be what ended his game. There was originally rain forecasted, so they pushed the game back, then it started to drizzle a little bit. MLB rules state that an *official* no hitter can only be a complete game of nine innings or more. So if weather ended the game anytime after the 5th, it would have been a ‘full game’ in the books (and a win for the Blue Jays) but Estrada’s no-hitter wouldn’t have counted. A technicality like that would have seemed like the most typical Toronto sports team luck.
The weather held, and so did Estrada’s resolve. Popout, lineout, lineout (all of which had me holding my breath, because Fenway). The last one was probably the most nerve-wrackingly impressive, as Jose Bautista booked it out into the right-field corner and made the catch on the run.
Curse you, Chris Young.
Thought excercise – if you were a pitcher and your no-hitter were broken up, which way would be more heartbreaking? A hard, deep home run like Young’s, therefore also killing your shutout, or a stupid little infield single like the Logan Forsythe one that ended Estrada’s perfect game bid in Tampa? To me, the latter seems worse, because it’s so tiny and inconsequential in the course of an entire game – and much of it has to do with timing and luck. The former is a big deal, and has more of a definitive ‘OK he really got me good there’ feeling to it. Both are disappointing for sure.
The amazing thing is that Marco, and his teammates, didn’t let that defeat them. He went right back to it, getting the next two batters. One of them, Christian Vazquez, flew out to Jose Bautista who made an incredible tumbling catch. There’s an old cliche that every no-hitter contains a dramatic play (Josh Donaldson diving into the stands in Tampa, anyone?) and it seemed Bautista kept that mentality alive even after the bid died. When your pitcher is as outstanding as Estrada was on that day, you have to do anything you can to reward him.
Curse you too, Dustin Pedroia. You know, as Buck and Pat so helpfully reminded us, Pedroia has a lengthy hit streak against the Blue Jays and no matter what, he somehow always manages to get on base in a key situation. For much of the game I was very worried it would be Pedroia to end the no-hitter. Chris Young seemed to come out of left field (literally… get it?).
So Gibby came out to get Marco, with smiles on both their faces. Russell Martin handed him the game ball to keep. After his two-hit game ended abruptly, Roberto Osuna allowed Pedroia and two more hitters to score, and increased his own hits-against total by a fair bit. Thank goodness Estrada still got the win. Do I question the decision to send Estrada out there to start the 9th? No way. He more than deserved the chance to finish the game, and while it made sense at the time to pull him after Pedroia’s leadoff double, I almost feel like he couldn’t have been that much worse than Osuna…
I’m not going to lie, if I’d gotten this close to a no-hitter for the third time in two seasons and had it ended in such a disappointing manner, I’d be crying in the clubhouse at the end of the game. The frustration would be too much for me. Yes, it’s a performance to be extremely proud of, but a ‘near no-hitter’ doesn’t put you in the record books among the game’s elite.
That’s why I was extremely glad to see Estrada smiling in the dugout at the end of the game, as he shook his coaches’ hands and hugged his teammates. In his post-game scrum, he even poked a little fun at himself as someone asked what pitch Young had hit, and he replied “Fastball in… Well, middle-in,” and laughed. He said afterwards that what he really wanted to do was finish the game, put up a zero and give the team a good chance to win. That the no-hitter would be “nice if it happens, but it’s not something I’m thinking about”. While I’m sure it disappoints him more than he’s letting on, he genuinely does seem more annoyed at the impact the hits had on the game score, rather than on his own stats.
Congratulations, Marco. You are a far more well-adjusted person than I.
As for the ‘if it happens’? I said this last November. I still stand by it.
You’ll get your no-hitter one day, pal. Hope it’s in Toronto! pic.twitter.com/UtuZSc0QWQ
— Emily – #AcEstrada (@JaysGirlEmily) November 13, 2015
Follow me on Twitter: @JaysGirlEmily
If you like us here, “like” us on Facebook!
The 2016 Toronto Blue Jays Minor League Handbook is now available in e-book and print formats! Visit the Handbook page for more information!
Now is a great time to subscribe to the Blue Jays from Away Premium Content Section!
All photos are copyright Blue Jays from Away (2013-2016) and may not be used without permission.